Time and Again

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-two

Confrontation

 

 

“Theo,” Buck turned to the quad hanging from Twiki’s neck. “Tell Dr. Huer’s contact that he can have the Lagrithians in about three hours, but until then, please don’t make contact with them. As soon as Hawk and I are clear, close the shield.”

“That should not be a problem, Buck,” Theo informed him.  “Travel has already been severely restricted to and from Earth,” Theo said. 

“Thanks, pal.  I owe you one,” Buck said, as he waved to Njobo and walked out of his room.  Hawk followed.

“Actually it’s more like owing me about two hundred and forty seven,” Theo said to Buck’s retreating back.   Twiki beeped in surprise.

At the launch bay, Hawk meticulously went through his pre-flight routine, while Buck found a helmet. 

“Are you going to take a weapon, Buck?” Hawk asked as he climbed in. 

“No, Hawk, I am counting on surprise being my best weapon.”

Hawk’s communicator beeped.  When he opened the link, a somewhat under the weather Dr. Huer greeted them.  Buck leaned forward so the Directorate leader could see him. 

“I can’t say that I totally agree with your tactics, Buck, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect it,” Huer said.  “And I suspect that if I was feeling better, I would be right up there along side you.”

Buck smiled grimly.  “Sorry you got this, too, Doc.  And thanks for the support.  You know this is something I have to do.”

“Yes, and apparently your timing is going to work out well.  Delegate Krinshgoran told me a Galactic Council ship is on its way.  I have arranged with him to have you signal when you are ready for the ship to come through the stargate and arrest the Lagrithians.”

“What kind of signal, Doc?  We most likely won’t be near Hawk’s ship,” he said somewhat impatiently.   Now that he had decided on this action, Buck was very eager to get it under way.

“An aide is bringing one for you or Hawk to carry.”

Buck nodded.  “As long as it doesn’t tip them off, I’m okay with it,” he replied.

“It’s a special device.  With a similar instrument, the delegate was able to communicate with the council without arousing the Lagrithian’s suspicions,” Huer explained.

“Right, Doc.  As soon as we get the device, we’re out of here.”

“Good luck, Buck.  And be careful.”

Within minutes, Dr. Huer’s aide had delivered the tiny transmitter and Hawk took it.  “I will be responsible for this, Buck.  I suspect you will be very preoccupied.”

“Thanks, Hawk.  Now let’s head for our rendezvous.”

As they streaked toward space, Hawk asked, “What if they do not request us to land on their ship?”

“Hawk, if I was still a betting man, I’d lay a wager down on that very question and I’d clean up.  They have only been hearing rumors.  Foreenizor is probably aching to get his hands on some real information,” Buck replied, his voice confidant.

“We are outside the defensive shield now,” Hawk informed his friend.  As if on cue, a voice came over the communicator warning ships away from Earth.  And then a signal came from the Lagrithian ship.   “Remind me to never play a game of chance with you, my friend,” Hawk added as he reached for the communicator.   He heard Buck’s soft laughter in the back seat.

Shortly, they were on the main hangar bay, the one where Buck had begun his fateful journey over a week before.  He took a deep breath and hoped he could pull off this surprise without resorting to any violence.   Hawk undogged the hatch and stood up to greet the Lagrithians.  As Buck expected, he saw Foreenizor striding into the room, his fingers moving in what Buck could only suppose was anticipation.  Keeping his head lowered, he climbed out after Hawk. 

“We welcome you to our ship,” Foreenizor said.  He gazed at Buck, puzzled.  “You are a Defense Directorate starfighter pilot.”

Buck lowered his voice slightly.  “Does my status preclude me wanting to get away from a sure death?   I had no intention of staying down there.  Paid the birdman to smuggle me out.  Near thing, too.  Sickness everywhere.  Only aliens are immune.  Killed thousands already.”   Buck saw Foreenizor’s long, slender fingers quiver and he knew he had the Lagrithian hooked.   He reached up to pull off his helmet, but hesitated.  Foreenizor wasn’t quite close enough.  “But just as long as I’m not down there,” Buck growled.  “I won’t get that death virus.”

Foreenizor’s face showed quick, almost instant pleasure before he hid his emotions.  Buck had to work at clamping down his own emotions, furious at the reaction the alien was showing to the possibility of misery to so many.   

Hawk stood back, watching carefully.  He noted who was armed and who was not.  Foreenizor studied Buck carefully as though trying to figure out something, but as yet there was no recognition on the Lagrithian’s face.  Rocking lightly on the balls of his feet, Hawk continued to watch carefully.

“You do realize that since there seems to be a plague situation on Earth and since you came from Earth, you will have to stay here under quarantine until it is determined you do not have this virus,” Foreenizor said.  “For the protection of other terrans in the galaxy.”

“Too late, Freenizor.  I was the first,” Buck said coldly, jerking off his helmet and dropping it to the deck.  Before anyone could move or say anything, Buck grabbed the doctor by the front of his jacket and shoved him back against a wall.  Gasps of astonishment accompanied the realization of who he was.  Foreenizor’s nut-brown countenance paled and his eyes widened.  His mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out.

“Yeah, you remember me, right Foreenizor?  It’s me, Buck Rogers, the one you tried to use to destroy the Earth.”   Buck heard movement behind him.  “Cover me, Hawk.”

“Already doing that, my friend,” the birdman replied. 

“Thanks.”   Buck never took his eyes from the Lagrithian’s.  “What were you hoping to accomplish, Foreenizor?  What did you want so badly that you were willing to submit millions of men, women and children to a hideously painful death?”

A laser pistol fired and Buck heard a body hit the floor.  He only hoped the stricken individual wasn’t Hawk. 

As though reading his mind, Hawk said, “I am fine, Buck.  Someone was trying to test my skills with a pistol.”

He heard a nearby door slide open and then shut.  “Hawk, they’re sending reinforcements!” he shouted.  Hawk’s pistol fired again and Buck heard the crackling of burnt circuits.   He turned his full attention back to Foreenizor.  “What was it, Foreenizor?  What was so bloody important that you had to send me through hell to get it?”

The Lagrithian mumbled something.  “All right,” he said.  “All right.  I’ll tell you.” 

Buck relinquished his hold slightly and Foreenizor exploded into surprising action, pushing Buck back and slapping at him.  While momentarily surprised, Buck recovered quickly, his right leg shooting out in a kick that connected with his victim’s stomach, and left him choking and gasping. 

“Buck, watch out.  To your right!”  Hawk’s laser flashed several more times, while Buck pivoted in time to meet the attack of a Lagrithian guardsman.  This man had more martial arts knowledge than Foreenizor and was more formidable.  Buck jumped back from what would have been a roundhouse punch had it connected, and then he threw a punch of his own, followed by a kick to the Lagrithian’s midsection.  Another guardsman tackled him, hitting him in the face and throwing Buck to the deck, stunning him momentarily.  His attacker sat on his chest, making it hard for Buck to breathe.  The guardsman drew himself up to throw another punch and was hit solidly with a laser stun blast.  Buck even felt the effects of that one. 

Looking around, he saw no one else seemingly willing to attack.  Most of the people left standing were watching in stunned silence, including Mreesa and Breearth.  Hawk held several guardsmen at bay. 

Buck saw Foreenizor trying to slink away during the commotion, but his escape was blocked by the two floratat designers.   Still a bit shaky from the near laser blast and the brief fight, Buck got to his feet.  He saw the Lagrithian leader trying to take something from Mreesa and realized in horror that it was a small laser pistol.   Resolve gave him the impetus to quickly cross the ten feet separating him from the alien and jerk him away from the women.  Buck spun Foreenizor around and, with a backhanded slap, knocked him to the deck. 

“Buck!” Mreesa said.  He glanced up and saw the floratat designer tossing him her laser pistol.  “You might need it,” she said.

He nodded his thanks and turned back to Foreenizor, kneeling beside him and resting the end of the laser’s barrel against the doctor’s forehead.  Buck’s other hand rested on the Lagrithian’s throat.  His fingers curled around Foreenizor’s neck.  He squeezed slightly, wanting to choke the life out of the Lagrithian doctor, but he restrained himself.  Buck only tightened his grip enough to let the alien feel his anger and resolve. “What Foreenizor?  Give me the justification for Wilma’s suffering, for mine?”  Foreenizor pawed at his hand, but it was as though all of Buck’s energy had flowed to his fingers.  The grip was steel hard and the alien could not break the Earthman’s hold.  “What was it?” Buck hissed.

“No, no!” Foreenizor choked out.  “It was the directive. Earth was perfect.”

Buck relinquished his hold on the doctor’s throat only enough to let Foreenizor talk more easily.  The laser pistol never wavered.  “What directive?   And Earth was perfect for what?”

“Perfect water composition.  And gases,” Foreenizor said hoarsely. 

Buck cried out in his rage.  His fingers tightened slightly before he regained some semblance of composure.  “Water!” he exclaimed, his voice rising in his indignation.   “Who made you Earth’s judge, jury and executioner?”  With a cold deadly voice, he added, “Who the hell made you God to decide whether humans are more or less important than a pool of water?”   Buck felt the light touch of a gloved hand on his shoulder and almost swung the pistol around until he realized who it was. 

Hawk’s voice was low and soothing, with the effect of pulling him away from his fiery rage.  “Buck, the federation ship has just come through the stargate and will be docking alongside this ship in ten minutes.”

Slowly, Buck released his hold on Foreenizor’s throat and stood up.  His hands were trembling, whether from the effects of his activities or from his anger, he didn’t know.  With the pistol still trained on the Lagrithian, Buck said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Foreenizor, you don’t know much about humans or you would know that the human spirit can’t be killed by a virus.  And know also that humans don’t roll over and play dead when they come up against something overwhelming.  If they did, we’d have been gone five hundred years ago.”

Foreenizor continued to lie on the ground, staring at Buck, almost as though the terran was a ghost.  “How?” he finally said, “how did you survive?” 

“Friends, Foreenizor.  My friends didn’t give up on me.”

“But the virus.  You were in a wilderness area.”

Buck laughed mirthlessly.  “You picked the wrong boy to practice medicine on.  You developed the contagion for present day humans.  You developed it pretty much from Wilma’s blood, didn’t you?  Fifty-fifty chance and you blew it, Doc.  I was born over five hundred years ago, before the Great Holocaust.  Terrans have changed a tiny bit since then.”  Seeing Foreenizor’s stricken look, he continued.  “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was sick, sick enough to want to die, but I didn’t.  I survived and returned to New Chicago in time for the doctors to develop a serum.”

The Lagrithian began to cry, his tears splashing to the deck. 

“You lost, Foreenizor.  You lost big time.”  Buck heard a shuttle coming to rest behind him, but he continued to hold the pistol on the Lagrithian.  There was still a tiny part of him that wanted his finger to tighten on the firing button, but he only continued to watch the alien doctor grovel at his feet.  The temptation and the anger slowly drained away.  Buck only felt exhaustion . . . and an overwhelming desire to go home.

“Captain Buck Rogers?” a voice asked behind him.

Buck turned toward the voice and saw a dark, green-skinned Pinzorian.  “Yes, I’m Captain Rogers.”

“We will take charge of the Lagrithian prisoners now.  We appreciate what you, Dr. Huer and Hawk have done to uncover this,” the Pinzorian said. 

Buck nodded, handing him the pistol.  It had suddenly become very heavy.  “I think only Dr. Foreenizor and a few of his cohorts were in on this plot.  Most of the Lagrithians, such as these floratat designers, had no idea what was going on,” Buck said, indicating Breearth and Mreesa.   “Oh, and the good doctor, here, mentioned a directive.  I think you may want to check out the heads of the Lagrithian government.  This directive seems to have come from them.”

“I am sure the Council will do that.”

“Good.”  Buck turned and began to walk toward Hawk’s ship. 

“Buck,” Breearth called out. 

Buck stopped and turned toward the floratat designer.  She walked up to him, Mreesa right behind her.

“Thank you,” Breearth said.

“What for?” Buck asked.

“For believing that we wouldn’t be a part of such a hideous plot.” 

He saw the woman’s sad face and said, “I saw you and I saw your reactions.  And I remembered the time we spent together.  And besides, Foreezinor apparently didn’t talk to you because if he did, he’d have known about my background.  No, I didn’t think you could be part of this.”

Breearth smiled.  “I am glad you didn’t die, Buck Rogers.”

“So am I,” Buck answered, laughing.  And this time it was a laugh of joy and of closure.  He was genuinely happy. 

“Good-bye, Buck,” she said, leaning toward him, her hands outstretched.  Understanding the custom, Buck held his hands out and intertwined his fingers with Breearth’s.  The gesture of respect was repeated with Mreesa. 

“Come back when this is all settled, Breearth, Mreesa,” Buck said, slowly pulling away.  He turned and walked toward Hawk’s starfighter, retrieving his helmet on the way. 

“Let’s go home, Hawk,” 

 

 

 

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